Last year John Rigby & Co. unveiled the highly anticipated Highland Stalker, a classically elegant stalking rifle to their portfolio of rifles. To find out what inspired Rigby, a company synonymous with big bore rifles, to create this smaller calibre edition, we catch up with the company’s managing director Marc Newton.
Marc, where did your inspiration for the Highland Stalker come from?
Rigby, working with its partner Mauser, developed the .275 Rigby calibre from original 7x57mm Mauser cartridge design of 1892. Such calibres were recognised as a milestone of modern cartridge design, replacing black powder with a new age of nitro.
The pastime of deerstalking grew hugely popular during the Victorian and Edwardian times, with the .275 Rigby quickly becoming the rifle of choice for people hunting in the Highlands.
This small calibre rifle also enjoyed a healthy following by hunters heading off to India and Africa, where they were used for plains game and dangerous game. Acclaimed hunters such as Karamojo Bell shot several hundred elephants with his .275 Rigby and Jim Corbett used his for hunting man-eating tigers and leopards in India.
The Highland Stalker of today is based on this original version.
How did you conceive the name Highland Stalker?
Rigby is all about heritage. Over the years, Rigby has made plenty of rifles for Africa and India but we also made dozens of rifles for Scotland. We regard the Scottish Highlands as the birthplace of stalking and a title befitting the new rifle.
How did you develop the look of the new rifle to fit with Rigby’s tradition?
We always wanted the rifle to look timeless and worthy of its heritage. When we sold the .275 Rigby Corbett donation rifle in 2016, it broke records and raised $250,000 for charity. We received a huge amount of positive feedback on the rifle’s design – people really loved the timeless look.
When we made the decision to build the Highland Stalker, we wanted to do it properly and go back to what Rigby and Mauser made 100 years ago and honour that design. It took a lot of fine tuning and development until we were happy with the final product.
What customary methods have been used to create the rifle and why is it important to Rigby?
In line with Rigby tradition and ethos, we continue to create our rifles with our historical partners Mauser. We consider Mauser actions to be the Rolls-Royce of actions and we’re proud to work with such an exceptional company. We may be using more modern methods and materials to put our rifles together but the core idea is still the same as a century ago.
How would you say the manufacturing process for the Highland Stalker compares to the processes used by Rigby 100 years ago?
Our processes have updated slightly with advances in machinery, but the same principles remain. The finishing and chequering of our stocks are all done in the same conventional way. We may have a different recipe for our oil but it’s still the hand-tensioning of the stock that gives it that luxury feel and look to the wood. The action is almost identical, as we still use the Mauser 98 action. We’ve cut out a bit of handwork in certain areas but this is to keep the price attractive and affordable.
What quality testing does the rifle go through before it leaves the workshop?
Our rifles are always quality inspected several times. Firstly the parts are examined by Mauser, as they always have been. During the completion process our rifles are tested by the London Proof House, a company which dates to 1637, set up by King Charles I. At the proof house they’re tested for safety, then stamped with the London seal, recognised around the world as a mark of quality.
At Rigby we test fire every rifle, checking the feeding, extraction, regulation of the iron sights, performance with a scope and each rifle is provided with a shot regulated target. We have this lovely old stamping machine from the original shop, which we use to stamp the targets. We regard this stamp as a sign of quality, linking our past to the present.
Can the rifle be customised for the buyer?
Yes, there are a choice of calibres – .275 Rigby, .308, .30-06, 8×57 or 9.3×62. The barrel comes as standard at 22 inches. There are several upgrade options to the finish of the metal work, including choice of bolt handle and colour-case hardening to the floor plate, safety housing and scope rings.
Both a men’s and ladies’ version is available, with the stock length for the men’s version fixed at 14¼” and the ladies’ version at 13 7/8”, unless otherwise requested. The ambidextrous stock features grade 5 walnut as standard, with optional upgrades available for the finish of the stock, grade of wood and choice of recoil pad.
The rifle comes as standard with the Rigby name engraved on the barrel, the ‘Double R’ Rigby logo on the magazine floor plate, with the serial number engraved on bottom of the trigger guard. There are numerous engraving options you can choose from, if your request is not on our custom list, then call us as there’s a very good chance we can do it for you.
The rifle weighs approximately 7.8lbs and features traditional Rigby pattern iron sights regulated to 65, 150 and 250 yards. The magazine can hold 5+1 or 4+1 depending on calibre and the action comes pre-drilled and tapped for scope mounts.
Would you see the rifle as an investment piece for the future?
The Rigby name carries great value to the product. A vintage .275 Rigby from the 1930s is selling much the same value as a new rifle, I can see the rifles of today, being the antiques of the future. Our rifles are built with such a quality that will last a lifetime and hopefully they’ll be something you’ll want to pass down through your family generations.